A former RAF paratrooper who was injured after stepping on a mine in Afghanistan has said “it’s hard to put into words how incredible it feels” after setting a world record for being the first person to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days for a third time.
Luke Wigman, 36, arrived home to County Durham on Wednesday after running seven marathons in just a week – five of them being ultramarathons at a 50km (31 mile) distance – in Antarctica, Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid, Fortaleza in Brazil, and finishing in Miami.
Mr Wigman is the first to achieve this feat for a third time – and earned second place on this occasion – after championing clinical rehabilitation throughout his journey following the leg injury he suffered while on tour in 2011 that required a number of extensive surgeries.
“To do it three times, I just feel like the luckiest person in the world,” Mr Wigman, now a war pensions and compensations adviser, told the PA news agency.
“And to think I’ve done that after what I’ve been through in life is a tremendous feeling.
“And it will never get old.
“It’s hard to put into words how incredible it feels… It feels quite surreal.”
Mr Wigman’s first time completing the challenge allowed him to raise £1 million for the completion of the Defence Rehabilitation Centre located on the Stanford Hall Rehabilitation Estate near Loughborough.
As part of his work as an ambassador for the Defence National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) Programme, Mr Wigman has championed the importance of rehabilitation for those who experienced life-changing injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The idea of creating a 21st century version of Headley Court stemmed from Gerald Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster, who served in the reserve army for 40 years.
His son, Hugh Grosvenor – the current Duke of Westminster – remains closely involved in the programme and joined Mr Wigman in Spain to support him on the fifth leg of the challenge.
“They’re taking people that are going through complex injuries, fixing them in a relatively short space of time (and) these individuals are then getting back out in the world, working again and taking on these extreme challenges,” Mr Wigman said.
“I’m just one example of many… They did such a good job of fixing me after stepping on a hidden bomb, I can do these things with my life, I can literally run marathons out on the North Pole.
“And then when you look at the amount of military veterans that have gone through this level of rehabilitation, there’s a lot of them doing incredibly well in life that have very successful careers that are doing astonishing physical feats.”
He explained that the next step in the programme is to build a national rehab centre next to the current DNR centre near Loughborough.
Though Mr Wigman’s original aim was to be the first person to also complete seven ultramarathons on seven continents in seven days, time constraints meant he could only make it five out of the bunch.
“It’s been absolutely crazy, I still feel like I’m half asleep,” he said of getting home.
“But as soon as the last person finished the marathon, you would all be going straight to the airport, going through security check-in, getting on the plane, go on to the next location, get into the start of the marathon.
“It’s a different experience every time and I know if I ever went for a fourth time, it would be a new experience again – it’s just the nature of the event.”
Mr Wigman explained that roughly 50 “crazy” people do the event every year and an American woman who finished an hour after him became the second person to complete the challenge three times.
He joined his wife, Nikki, and their two-year-old son Wilf at home on Wednesday and added that he hopes it will inspire others to see their potential.
“It’s really difficult to put into words just what it means to me,” Mr Wigman said.
“If someone that’s going through a difficult time following a complex injury can follow my story or see what I’ve done, it gives them a bit of self-belief on what it is that’s possible out there and what their potential is.
“Because we all have incredible potential to do amazing things.”